Bay Area Battling
It hasn't been too long since the Cardinals were in Santa Clara, as they capped off last season there in Week 18. This week's game had a bunch of new faces, different lighting and shiny white uniforms.
I started off the day earlier than usual by checking who was out on the field for pre-pregame warmups. Among the few was James Conner taking some catching reps:
The harsh noon lighting was creating some interesting shadows in the tunnel area, so I parked myself there for a while as the players and coaches made their way onto the field for actual pregame warmups.
I'm really liking Trey McBride's new go-to pose of pointing to the camera. I challenge Cardinals fans to count how many times he'll do it per week.
I am still getting used to the layout of our pregame warmups and the drills each position group does. This time around, I moved over to the left side of the field to capture the cornerbacks catching short passes.
I think I was correct in my assumption from last week that D.J. Humphries is the permanent huddle leader. I actually welcome the consistency because he always gives really intense speeches, as you can probably tell by Paris Johnson Jr.'s game face in this photo:
Since I had already captured a bunch of the players running out of the tunnel before warmups, I wanted to try to get players kneeling in the end zone this time. I waited at the far end of the field instead of by the tunnel, and I ended up with some nice shots:
For some extra pregame motivation, Zach Ertz watched the 49ers player introductions from midfield.
During those introductions, I have a little bit of extra time before the national anthem plays, so I go further into the bench area to get some photos of the players interacting with each other or taking some moments to themselves. This time, the subjects were James Conner and some of the offensive line:
The shadows were hard to manage in-camera, but when the guys looked upwards, it illuminated their face more and made it easier to expose. I liked the few that worked out during the national anthem:
I always try to get all of the captains in one photo walking out to the coin toss, but somehow they all enter the frame at different times. I usually have better luck photographing them walking from behind, like in this photo:
The light had shifted a lot since I had first walked out onto the field. By the time the game started, the bench area was completely blasted with sun. It made for a couple of cool portraits though:
For anyone wondering, this is what it looks like when Kyler Murray catches you randomly pointing a camera lens at him:
Because of all the deep balls San Francisco was throwing, I stayed down in our end zone to capture the defense and be closer to the action. This angle also allowed slightly better lighting since the sun was behind the line of scrimmage.
Once we were on offense, I switched sides and, because the sun didn't move, also switched up my settings for the different light. You'll notice these next couple of photos have a more dramatic and darker tone to them.
(And also D.J. Humphries tying his shoe)
I grabbed my 85mm lens right before Michael Wilson's first touchdown, and was really lucky to have him catch and slide right in front of me. I was grateful to have fixed focal length so I could point and shoot without worrying about the zoom.
I just kept clicking the shutter button all throughout the celebration, and I really like this first shot where you can see a cascading line of excited Cardinals:
I picked a good spot to catch Dennis Gardeck's sack, and I prefer the lighting from this angle:
After I scrolled through my sequence of the sack, I was reminded of one of J.J. Watt's sacks on Brock Purdy the last time we played the 49ers. Spot the difference:
For Michael Wilson's second touchdown, I used the same setup with my 85mm and spray-and-pray method. These are my cropped favorites of the sequence:
And here's the original framing without the crop. We can't always get as close as we want, so the crop tool is our friend:
After the two-minute warning, I put my 400mm lens away and just stuck with my two smaller lenses. I hung around the sideline for a bit, and I liked a couple of these more intimate shots I could get that showcase what it is like being on an NFL sideline:
I will leave you with a shadow selfie that I took during the game specifically to end this photo essay: